I see undead people

Why let death stand in the way of a prequel?

Marley and Me ended (spoiler alert) with just Me; the Labrador retriever Marley went to that cloud-tufted, hydrant-filled doggyground in the sky. But now that Twentieth Century Fox is putting Marley and Me: The Puppy Years (tagline: “The World’s Worst Dog Is Back”; from plot synopsis: “and this time he speaks!”) out on DVD, there’s no need to worry about a film having a “sad” (i.e., either true-to-life or manipulatively maudlin) ending anymore. There’s always a flashback to be fleshed and stretched into a feature-length prequel for pre-posthumous profit!

So, without further ado, let’s reconsider the RIPping onscreen yarns, from olde-timey epics to modern-day romances, that can now be retrospectively rebooted even though the protagonist got his plug pulled:

Troy 2: Boys Will Be Boys

Tagline: Beware Greeks regifting.

Plot pitch: During a time of tense peace, the Spartan and Trojan royal families have put their teenaged sons and future warriors—Odysseus, Achilles, Hector, Paris—in school together on neutral ground, in Crete, where they’re taught by Aristotle (arts and poetics), Plato (philosophy), and Archimedes (science). But when Theseus, from Athens, shows up and cockily defeats the Minotaur, the others decide to gang up on the demi-boygod showoff … until old city-state rivalries resurface and the Greeks unite to leave a large wooden goat outside the residence of the Trojan kids as a “peace offering.”

Twist: All the boys are in love with each other until Aphrodite (Scarlet Johansson) shows up to set them all straight and get the Greeks lusting after Cassandra (Jennifer Lawrence), Hector and Priam’s sister. (Note: Trojan Condoms can be slipped into many scenes for product endorsement dollars.)

The Last Temptation of Christ 2: Jesus’ Inception

Tagline: It isn’t accomplished yet!

Plot pitch: Just before he’s crucified, Christ (Leonardo DiCaprio) dreams of a life with Mary, Martha, and more wives, plus 12 children (his next generation of disciples).

Twist: Christ’s dream is in fact our twisted, corrupt earthly dream about him that he has planted in our minds and we have failed to decode. The film throws us into a first-person POV as we fight through layers of Christ’s “inception” to discover the true meaning of his resurrection while searching for “keystones” in various Middle-East cities. We learn that Christ did in fact marry Mary Magdalene and the entire history of not only Opus Dei but the Roman Catholic Church has been an elaborate, nearly 2000-year-long dream planted in us by God to test how slavishly faithful we are. Finally, we are the ones crucified, screaming out “It is accomplished!” Except, as images of Darwin and Nietzsche flash onto the screen before the picture cuts to black, we’re not sure what “it” is. Oliver Stone directs.

Titanic 2: The Olympic Year

Tagline: Jack’s back!

Plot pitch: It’s the year before the Titanic’s launched, 1911, and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a third-class passenger on what’s then the world’s largest ocean liner, the RMS Olympic. He’s an artist with an uncanny ability to draw dead people. He falls in love with Violet (Jennifer Lawrence), a waifish stowaway in the much reviled and little-known fourth-class section of the ship, but a jealous ghost, whom only Jack can see, threatens to keep them apart. Oh, and will the ship avoid a huge sea monster in the midst of the Atlantic on its maiden voyage?

Twist: Director James Cameron will slip in sly references to his forthcoming Avatar 2, via a complex subplot whereby first-class passengers have blue Na’vi (brought back by Stanley and Livingstone, who travelled to Pandora in HG Wells’ time machine) as their personal “servants.”

My Girl 0.9: The Hospital Days

Tagline: It’s good to have a friend who understands you. Even if he is one day old.

Plot pitch: The first film (1991), set in 1972, featured young Thomas (Macaulay Culkin) helping introduce hypochondriac Veda (Anna Chlumsky) to adolescence and love; Thomas died from an allergic reaction to bee stings. The prequel begins in the womb, just before birth, when Thomas (played by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s latest baby) feels the warm vibe of Veda (played by Madonna’s latest adopted daughter) in the belly of another woman in the maternity ward. They’re born at the same time and it’s love from infancy! After he’s nearly attacked by a bee, an incident which scares the one-day-old Veda into hypochondria, he and Veda are placed together for three blissful days in an isolation ward, where he telepathically (we hear their thoughts in voiceover) offers her words of comfort and infant-infant love.

Twist: Thomas isn’t actually a boy yet—he suffers from a kind of incipient hermaphroditism that won’t be cleared up until later. Out of concern for his gender-confusion, Veda begins to act more male (preferring blue, burping deeply), which explains her tomboyishness in My Girl!

Pay It Forward 2: Suck It Backward

Tagline: Trevor’s back—and he’s angry!

Plot pitch: At the end of the first film, Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) was stabbed to death after launching a pass-on-a-favour project suggested by his social studies teacher (Kevin Spacey). Now Trevor (Elijah Wood), a ghost, angry at how a supposedly altruistic pyramid scheme ended up killing him, is determined to wreak revenge on the whole Ponzi scam and kill all those who were only nice to others because they adopted a sick capitalist framework for moral behaviour. Quentin Tarantino directs.

Twist: In increasingly poetically unjust ways, Trevor kills everyone he’d stupidly helped or had help others. But when he offs the teacher (now played by Christopher Waltz), the teacher reveals himself to be Satan and sends his demons after Trevor and his fellow undead, who will be condemned to Hell eternally with Bernie Madoff unless they enlist guardian-angels in their quest to pass into purgatory peacefully (all of which then unfolds in the sequel to this prequel—Pay It Forward 3: I Want My Blood-Money Back).

Nights in Rodanthe 2: Mornings in Winston-Salem vs. Message in a Bottle 2: Bottle Returned For 5¢ Deposit

Tagline: The Battle of the Tearjerkers!

Plot pitch: Off the coast of North Carolina, while sailing alone near a pristine, unknown island, a reporter on vacation, Theresa (Robin Wright Penn, made to look younger through CGI), finds a bottle with a miniature replica ship inside. Inside the ship is a priceless Fabergé egg, long thought lost. Inside the egg is another miniature replica ship in a bottle. Inside that ship in a bottle is a message. On a scroll, unrolled, in very small handwriting-by-quill, is a series of backdated love letters from a man, Garret (a CGI avatar-hybrid of George Clooney and Brad Pitt), to his young wife, an up-and-coming politician, who died in a boating accident off the shore of Cape Cod (shown in sunset-dappled flashbacks). Theresa discovers that Garret’s wife had been sailing down to South America to be with her lover but she keeps this revelation a secret. She tracks down and visits Garret, now living with just his mopey teen daughter and trying to start up a puppy mill; she falls for Garret even as she publishes the scroll on her blog, changing the names. Some months later, visiting the bed-and-breakfast/house of her friend, Adrienne (Diane Lane, also made to look younger through CGI), in Winston-Salem, she finds to her dismay that Adrienne has recently met and started seeing Garret.

Twist: Garret dies in a storm off the coast one night while searching for his runaway daughter. Adrienne and Theresa bond over and make peace with their mutual passion for Garret by raising his daughter (who’d merely been over at a friend’s house, playing video games) as their own. And Garret bequeathed them all an adorable Labrador retriever puppy that speaks! V

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